Outbreak: Gun Violence Is a Health Crisis

by Pablo Ros  |  October 27, 2016

This article was first published in the Fall 2016 edition of AFSCME Works. Click here to download the full magazine.

Outbreak: Gun Violence Is a Health Crisis

Scott Byington works the night shift in the emergency room at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, California. He is a registered nurse in the Level II trauma center, which serves a large population that includes South Central Los Angeles.

"I became a nurse because I realized at a very early age how precious life is," says Byington, who began his career as an orderly at age 16 in his native Missouri and has been a registered nurse for more than 25 years. "And I believed I could make a difference in people’s lives."

To Byington, president of the St. Francis Registered Nurses Association (UNAC/NUHHCE), reminders of how precious life is are all too common. Because of its coverage area, St. Francis gets a large number of victims of gun violence. Hardly a night goes by that he doesn’t treat a person wounded by a bullet.

"I'll never forget one night when we treated 17 people who'd been shot in separate incidents of gun violence," he says.

Preventing Gun Deaths

Although the number of gunshot wounds at St. Francis is much higher than the average in California, gun violence afflicts every part of the country. In fact, according to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine, Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed nations.

That’s why delegates to AFSCME’s 42nd International Convention in Las Vegas this July approved a resolution to “support and advance legislation to promote research relating to gun violence as a public health crisis.”

But, because of the influence of special interest groups on Congress, the federal government isn’t allowed to conduct even the most basic research in this area.

AFSCME joined a coalition of labor unions and organizations in a campaign to end gun violence through reasonable gun control legislation. The campaign, called "Hate Bleeds America," began this summer and will continue through the day before Election Day on Nov. 8.

Gun Violence Is Like a Deadly Disease

"If gun violence were a disease, there’s no doubt in my mind that we as a society would be doing more to treat it," Byington says. "Well, gun violence is like a disease, and it's certainly a public health crisis."

The goal is not to pass judgment on gun ownership, but to help prevent gun violence by better understanding its causes.
Byington knows that such violence can affect anyone. Like the 1-year-old baby rushed into the emergency room with a gunshot wound to the leg: "Luckily we were able to provide fast treatment and the baby survived."

Or the two young adults, 20 and 21 years old, who had been "playing basketball with their friends when they were hit by stray gunfire," Byington recalled. "They were innocent kids! The 21-year-old was in better shape and he was going to make it. I was working on the younger one, who kept holding my hand and pleading with me not to let him die. He kept saying, ‘Please don’t let me die, please don’t let me die.’ I’ll never forget that. We did our best, but we couldn’t save him."

Learning more about the causes of gun violence is not about challenging Second Amendment rights. It is simply allowing research so that policy makers can be best equipped to make decisions about how to reduce many unnecessary deaths from guns.

AFSCME Activist Built a Career in Caring

by Olivia Sandbothe, Namita Waghray & Pablo Ros  |  October 27, 2016

This article was first published in the Fall 2016 edition of AFSCME Works. Click here to download the full magazine.

AFSCME Activist Built a Career in Caring Eric Johnson

Before he became a human services case worker for the state of Illinois, Eric Johnson built a career in caring: He was a hospice chaplain, providing spiritual care for the terminally ill. And before that, he was a hospital chaplain and a navy chaplain.

"I moved into case work because I find that I use the same skills," said Johnson, who is a member of AFSCME Local 1805 (Council 31).

Johnson determines and maintains eligibility for SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) for the poor, the elderly and the disabled residents of St. Clair County, Illinois. "I love it," he says. "I help good people every day who are struggling with difficult circumstances. I focus myself spiritually on treating everyone with dignity and self-worth."

Just as Johnson brought his past skills as a champlain to his public service work, to his AFSCME Strong activism he brought a desire to respond with action in the face of challenges.

"We are coordinating with sisters and brothers from other unions to defend legislators who support labor and fight every anti-union initiative that Governor Rauner has thrown at us," he said.

Yvette Silas-Pinson: Q&A with a Rising Leader

by Pablo Ros  |  October 27, 2016

This article was first published in the Fall 2016 edition of AFSCME Works. Click here to download the full magazine.

Yvette Silas-Pinson: Q&A with a Rising Leader Yvette Silas-Pinson speaks with AFSCME retiree about the upcoming Presidential election.

Through the Women’s Leadership Academy, AFSCME women members develop leadership skills with mentors, creating a community of support and the ability to build power in their local unions.

The eight-month Academy includes a five-day orientation session, completion of a local union or council project or campaign, and a three-day final session. This year’s orientation session was held in mid-August in Columbus, Ohio.
Yvette Silas-Pinson is one of dozens of participants in the Academy. She is a school health aide for the Baltimore City Health Department and member of AFSCME Local 44 (Council 67).

Q: What did you like best about being part of the Academy this year?
A: It was absolutely wonderful! I would say it was life changing. To be in a room with 29 women leaders from different parts of the country, as far away as Alaska, was amazing. I’ve gained a whole new sisterhood.

Q: What did you learn from your AFSCME sisters?
A: I learned to be more confident. These are women who work hard to try to impact and change their role to be able to make a difference. I felt proud of myself and what I’ve done, and at the same time I gained new insight into how to address my problem areas. It showed me that it’s okay to love and care about your co-workers and friends. We spent a week together and none of us wanted to separate.

Q: I know you helped build your union by knocking on some doors and having one-on-one conversations with other AFSCME members.
A: Yes, we talked about our union and many of them recommitted to our union. Some even joined for the first time. I guess I’m kind of good at it!

Q: What leadership role do you play in your local?
A: I’m a shop steward for my local. When I first joined our union I wasn’t active. I didn’t know what a union was; I didn’t know where my dues went to. So I started asking questions and a young lady who was a school health aide said she needed help with union matters. That was three years ago. So she introduced me to the union and ever since then I’ve been rocking and rolling!

Q: What motivates you every day?
A: It’s the fact that somebody helped me. I’m adopted, and that means somebody changed my life. That’s why I always wanted to impact somebody else’s. I’ve got passion, and I can’t turn it off. Even when I want to it’s always there, it’s always present.

The Best Leader for Our Country

by Lee Saunders  |  October 26, 2016

This article was first published in the Fall 2016 edition of AFSCME Works. Click here to download the full magazine.

The Best Leader for Our Country

I've been involved in a lot of campaigns over the years, but I can’t remember another one where the contrast between the candidates was this great and the choice was this clear.

Without question, there’s a lot of economic anxiety out there. Even though the recession is over, even though incomes are rising again, so many working families feel like they’re getting a raw deal. They feel like they can’t get ahead no matter how hard they work. They feel like they won’t be able to give their kids the same opportunities they had.

Talking the Talk vs. Walking the Walk

There is only one candidate in this Presidential race who understands these struggles, who really gets it. And I’ll give you a hint: It’s not the guy who made “you’re fired” his reality show catchphrase.

Donald Trump wants you to believe he’s on the side of working people. He talks a good talk, but we need a President who will walk the walk.

He says we’ve got to bring jobs back to America, but it turns out his clothing line uses labor from China and Bangladesh.
He says he’s on our side, but then he argues that Americans’ wages are too high.

He says he supports unions, except that he embraces a national right-to-work law and he’s a first-class union-buster, refusing to negotiate with workers at his hotel property in Las Vegas.

Talk is cheap. Lip service isn’t going to raise our incomes, protect our pensions or give our kids a better future. We need a President who will produce for us, not pander to us.

We also need a President who treats all people with respect. Not someone who attacks people of color, who smears immigrants and religious minorities, who insults war heroes and Gold Star families, who says vulgar things about women and mocks people with disabilities. Public service workers bring our communities together. We can’t have a President who would tear us apart.

A Strong, Seasoned, Steady Leader

On the other side, we have Sec. Hillary Clinton – as strong, seasoned and steady a leader as you will find. She is both competent and compassionate. She has the heart, the brains and the guts to succeed at the most important job in the world.

She will fight for an economy that works for everyone. She’s a champion for higher wages and equal pay for equal work. A champion for Social Security and retirement with dignity. A champion who will defend our collective bargaining rights, who proudly declares that when unions are strong, America is strong.

She cares about the things we care about, the things that we talk about around the dinner table, the things that keep us up at night. She understands the challenges facing working families. She honors our work and shares our commitment to our communities. She knows that public service workers never quit. She knows that we make America happen.

The stakes are too high to sit this one out, Sisters and Brothers. We have the power to determine what kind of country we'll be for the next four years.
So let’s do what we do best, AFSCME. I’ll be out there hitting the streets, and I’m asking you to join me. Knock on doors till your hands are sore. Make phone calls until your voice is hoarse. We can rest on November 9. Until then, let’s leave it all on the field and elect Hillary Clinton  President of the United States.

DC 37 Activists Visit Philadelphia to Get-Out-the-Vote for Clinton

by Alfredo Alvarado, DC 37  |  October 26, 2016

DC 37 Activists Visit Philadelphia to Get-Out-the-Vote for Clinton Local 154 member Vanessa Tirado, always ready to participate in the union’s political activities, joined two busloads of DC 37 activists who traveled over the weekend for a get-out-to-vote campaign in Philadelphia. (Photo by Clarence Ellie-Rivera)

National polls are showing Hillary Clinton pulling away in her race for the White House, but the former secretary of state and the working people who support her are taking nothing for granted.

Clinton reached out to voters in Raleigh, North Carolina, over the weekend while DC 37 members joined a major get-out-the-vote blitz with AFSCME members from across the country.

Two busloads of activists from DC 37 left their union headquarters in lower Manhattan early Saturday morning and headed for Philadelphia for a day of door-knocking to make sure working families are heard on November 8.

After two hours on the road, DC 37 Political Action Dir. Jeremy John handed out assignments and volunteers picked up their union campaign literature and ponchos to protect them against the steady drizzle. The activists paired off and drove to their assigned neighborhoods.

Retiree Enovia Bedford went door-to-door in West Oak Lane in North Philadelphia, a community of private two-story homes. Several homes in the neighborhood had Clinton-Kaine placards on their lawns, and Bedford came across some residents who had already voted. “That’s a good sign,” she said. 

Vanessa Tirado, a member of Local 154, also made the trip to Philadelphia. Tirado, a claims examiner who works in the New York City Office of Comptroller, lives in Orange County and commutes two hours every day to her job in the city. But a two-hour commute from her home to Manhattan and then a two-hour bus trip to Philadelphia on a rainy Saturday morning wasn’t a problem for the Bronx native.

“There’s too much at stake,” said Tirado, who has taken a lot of canvasing trips with the union and is also active in her community. Tirado said one of her trips was to Connecticut and New Hampshire.

And the following day on Sunday morning Tirado planned to go door to door again, this time in her suburban neighborhood on behalf of a Democratic Party candidate who is running in her district.

Innovators: Tapping into Public Employee Potential

by Deirdre O'Neill-Wedig, OCSEA/AFSCME Local 11  |  October 25, 2016

Innovators: Tapping into Public Employee Potential ODOT District 4 mechanics from Ashtabula County, Tim Wood (left) and Tim Rogers, are innovators who thought outside the box to develop a snow- and ice-free truck step that has virtually eliminated slips and falls for ODOT snowplow drivers in their county.

Public employees are proud of the services they provide. They want to do their jobs and do them well. They want to improve their work and processes, bring safety to their jobs, and have a voice and integrity in the workplace – all union values.

Team Up ODOT, a 20-year labor and management tradition, is a prime example. When the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) and management work together great things happen. Workers are safer, public work is more efficient and taxpayers win. The annual event spotlights innovation and process improvement and awards employees for giving back and working hard.

When Ohio Department of Transportation mechanics (and OCSEA members) Tim Wood and Tim Rodgers from Ashtabula County faced an ice hazard during the harsh winter months, they thought outside the box. They created a heated truck cab step to help improve safety for drivers exiting and entering the trucks. A buildup of snow and ice while plowing had resulted in numerous slips and falls.

What was the simple solution to this dangerous problem? The mechanics added a heat exchanger to the bottom of the step using coolant from the engine as a heat source. With the support of their manager, they worked to make the innovation a reality for just over $300 per truck, a drop in the government bucket. With no more snow and ice build up, the slip hazard has virtually been eliminated in the county.

“It’s innovators like these men who are proof that public employees do it well and they do it best,” said OCSEA President Christopher Mabe, also an AFSCME International vice president. “We must build upon the connection that public employee values ARE union values. It is this common thread that will mean the preservation of good jobs, the middle class and the American dream.” 

All Talk: Trump Tower Filled with Foreign Goods

by United Steelworkers  |  October 24, 2016

All Talk: Trump Tower Filled with Foreign Goods

Donald Trump likes to talk a tough game on trade, but when it comes to putting his money where his mouth is, Trump has shown that his talk is just that – talk.

Trump’s own products, including his branded shirts, ties, suits and cuff links, are manufactured in at least a dozen other countries, among them Bangladesh, China, India and Mexico. Trump vodka is distilled in the Netherlands. His crystal barware comes from Slovenia.

Trump also stocks his luxurious hotels with foreign-made goods. A Steelworker with a camera checked out the pricey Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City and found many products in just one room that could have been purchased domestically but were instead sourced by Trump from overseas.

“I don’t see a future if Trump is elected,” said Terra Samuel, a steelworker with Local 1010, who works for ArcelorMittal in Indiana. “Hillary has credibility for working with labor unions and looking out for young people. I love her ideas for investing in infrastructure. Because she will require American-made products that will support American manufacturing and create American jobs.”

If Trump wanted to rebuild America like he says, he could have started by buying American-made products.

Watch a USW-produced video on the foreign-made products used in Trump hotel rooms:

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2016 issue of USW@Work.

Running to Represent Workers

by Connecticut Council 4  |  October 21, 2016

Running to Represent Workers Sean Ronan, left, and Michael DiMassa

Being an active and concerned union member is a great way to transform your workplace. Fighting for your community in legislative chambers is another way. Here’s a look at three Council 4 members running for state representative:

West Haven: Mike DiMassa and Sean Ronan

This election season, color the city of West Haven AFSCME Green.

It’s here you’ll find not one but two Council 4 members seeking election as state representatives: Mike DiMassa and Sean Ronan.

DiMassa, a member of Local 681 (West Haven DPW/City Hall) is running in the 116th District (West Haven and New Haven). Ronan, 48, a member of Local 1159 (Bridgeport Police), hopes to represent the 117th District (West Haven, Milford and Orange).

Both candidates share a strong belief in unions and the need to ensure the Connecticut Legislature is more worker-friendly.

“Unions have done so much to improve people’s lives,” DiMassa said. “We need to support collective bargaining and create livable wage jobs. That’s good for workers and good for businesses.”

Ronan shares that sentiment. The longtime Bridgeport police detective and Army veteran comes from a strong union family (including a brother who is a state corrections officer and a sister who is a town dispatcher).

“Unions built America. I’m running as a working man’s candidate,” he said, noting that his opponent, incumbent Republican Charles Ferraro, wants to slash workers’ pay and benefits, and curtail bargaining rights.

DiMassa, 25, is a newcomer to politics. The City Council clerk upset veteran incumbent Lou Esposito by 22 votes in the August Democratic primary. Council 4 endorsed DiMassa in the primary, and helped his effort with get-out-the-vote phone calls and an in-district mailing.

Ronan, 48, has already been fighting for his fellow West Haven residents as a four-term member of the West Haven City Council.

“I want to help my constituents have a voice in Hartford. We need more economic development and good stable jobs so our communities can flourish,” he said.

“Sean and I are not looking to be career politicians,” DiMassa reflected. “We want to bring a fresh perspective. We want to have a positive impact.”

Ronan added, “It’s noble to be in politics and want to help your constituents.”

Jim Tedford Jim Tedford

Vernon: Jim Tedford

A sunny Friday in September recently found Jim Tedford of AFSCME Local 1471 (Vernon Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Water Pollution Control) at the XL Center in Hartford, where he spent a vacation day helping the Connecticut Mission of Mercy provide free dental care to more than 1,300 citizens in need.

“It’s about improving the human condition and paying it forward,” Tedford said during a break from his duties at the Mission of Mercy’s dental clinic, where he has volunteered for three years.

The 35-year town employee is taking the same approach to his candidacy for the 56th House District (Vernon and Rockville): “I see a lot of things that need improvement. I want to make my part of the state better.”

Tedford, a Republican, is currently serving his first term as a town councilman and garnered the highest number of votes in last year’s municipal election. As a past president of his local, and a current member of Council 4’s Delegate Assembly, he hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the Legislature if he’s elected.

 “I believe in unions. I’ve also seen what it’s like to lack the rights and dignity that come with having a union to protect you. I’d like to work with organized labor to advance legislation that helps everyone in the public and private sectors.”

Fighting for Better Patient Care and R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Connecticut

by Olivia Sandbothe  |  October 20, 2016

Fighting for Better Patient Care and R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Connecticut Jessica Ellul (center) with nursing assistants at Danbury Hospital show their solidarity in CHCA scrubs. (Photo by Patty George)

Despite aggressive opposition from hospital management, workers at two Connecticut hospitals can now proudly call themselves AFSCME members.

Custodians, maintenance workers, lab techs, nursing assistants and others employed at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals, both managed by the Western Connecticut Healthcare Network (WCHN), voted to join Connecticut Health Care Associates (CHCA/AFSCME) on September 1. They’re fighting for respect on the job — for their patients and themselves.

“The main thing we’re hoping to get in the contract is better staffing levels that would make things safer for us and the patients,” says Jessica Ellul, a patient care coordinator at Danbury. “I think people are excited to see a change. Now that they have a voice, people feel like they’re part of this hospital again. We’re hoping to build a better relationship with management.”

Management tried to spread misinformation and divide workers from one another in the lead-up to the election. But hospital workers didn’t waver from their convictions: safety and quality care must come ahead of profits.

“I want to work in a hospital that not only I, but our whole community can be proud of,” said Melissa Zipparo. Shirnette Noble says she voted for the union because “our work safety depends on it.”

Now that they’re officially standing together as a union, WCHN employees are ready to begin speaking up for better patient care and a fairer workplace.

Protecting Our Children

October 19, 2016

Each year nearly a million children are abducted or run away. Many are never returned to their families. That’s a staggering statistic and one that our union can help to reduce.

AFSCME is partnering with the National Child Identification Program and the American Football Coaches Association to make our children's lives safer. This month, AFSCME members will receive a child identification kit that can be used to collect and store a child’s fingerprints and DNA. Completed kits should be stored at home in a safe place and only turned over to authorities in the event of an emergency. No one will have access to your child’s fingerprints or DNA without your permission. 

The kits will arrive with the Fall issue of AFSCME WORKS magazine and include instructions for use. It’s so easy to gather the information, and it could make all the difference in the future.

There’s nothing more important to AFSCME than the members who help keep their communities running and our union strong. And there’s nothing more important to us as parents and grandparents than our children and grandchildren. Through the use of the child identification kit, a parent or guardian can dramatically increase the chances that a missing child will be located and safely returned.

The fingerprint kit, DNA sample collector and fact sheet are kept by the parent or guardian in their personal records, but if needed — will give law enforcement agencies up to 80 percent of the information they need to initiate an immediate search when time is of the essence.

In teaming up with the National Child Identification Program, AFSCME joins several unions and dozens of community, faith and athletic organizations to make our communities safer. In addition to receiving one free kit, AFSCME members will have the option of buying additional kits at the specially negotiated price of $4.95, half the usual cost.

Watch your mailbox for a free child identification kit in the Fall issue of AFSCME WORKS magazine. A missing child is a parent’s worst nightmare, and we sincerely hope that once AFSCME members complete the kit, they’ll never have to use it.

As public service workers, we take pride in making our communities safer. If we all take a few moments to protect our families, we can help bring every missing child home safely. 

For kit instructions en Español, visit

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